A working definition for metadesigners

COMPARE positive feedback and negative feeedback
ALSO see John's notes from his talk The Tragedy of the Thermostat

The world is complex and mystifying - but...

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Billiard tableMother and child
NOT ALL SITUATIONS make it evident that a particular action has affected another one. Sometimes there seems to be a clear chain of subsequent actions (as in billiards). When this chain sends information back to the 'initial' process we call it 'feedback'. Although many working systems in nature may be subject to feedback, the way this happens is not always visible or simple. When you look at a set of interconnected things you begin to see them as a whole system that appears to affect itself. Ross Ashby used the term circularity of action, because it would seem that something is changing itself - or even creating itself.

Technological origins

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Photo of an electronic circuitDrawing of actual actual circuit

The term 'feedback' emerged from within the emerging field of radio and electronics, which tended to have visible wires and clear information pathways that made feedback easy to identify and measure.

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Amplifier with feedbackFeedback diagram

FEEDBACK TAKES TIME: It is important to remember that feedback takes time to take effect. In the feedback diagram (above right), for example, P sends information to R, which then replies with new information. This means that the state of P will alter, after it has sent its information. But not all feedback has the same effect - while some works to affirm the information sent out (i.e. called POSITIVE FEEDBACK), other feedback has the opposite effect (i.e. NEGATIVE FEEDBACK). N.B. Positive just means REINFORCING: There are no value judgements implied by the adjectives 'positive' or 'negative' when used with the word . They merely specify whether the feedback reinforces (i.e. in positive feedback) or moderates the original process (as in negative feedback).

See also positive feeedback | negative feeedback | autopoiesis | sympoiesis
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